The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday told the Bayelsa state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has cleared Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the deputy governor, of forging his exemption certificate.
NYSC had on Thursday admitted in evidence a letter to the department of state security (DSS) admitting that it corrected a spelling error on Ewrhrudakpo’s exemption certificate.
While addressing the three-member tribunal headed by Ibrahim Sirajo on Friday, Ibrahim Bawa, counsel to INEC, said since NYSC that issued the exemption certificate came out to admit that it indeed issued the certificate in dispute, the commission saw no need to call any witness.
Also speaking, Emmanuel Enoedem, counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the evidence tendered by the NYSC clearly exonerated the deputy governor of any wrongdoing as alleged by the petitioner, Vijah Opuamah of the Liberation Movement.
PDP said the evidence Opuama presented before the tribunal supported the position of the deputy governor, prompting the party not to call any witness in defence of the petition.
Opuama is challenging Ewhrudjakpo’s qualification to stand in the Bayelsa state governorship election, on the grounds that the deputy governor submitted a forged exemption certificate to INEC before the election.
“Our candidate, the deputy governor of Bayelsa state, has been exonerated of any wrongdoing by the NYSC, which issued him its exemption certificate. So, we don’t have to waste the precious time of the honourable tribunal by calling witnesses to tender documents that have already been presented to the tribunal by the petitioner,” Enoedem told journalists at the court premises.
“Clearly, the deputy governor has been cleared of the forgery allegation by the relevant authorities in the matter.”
After listening to the submissions of the PDP and the NYSC in the matter, Sirajo adjourned the suit till June 17 for Diri Duoye, governor of Bayelsa, and his deputy to open their defence in the petition.
On Tuesday, Ewhrudjakpo had also picked holes in the certificates of Opuama, the petitioner and governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement in the last governorship poll in the state.
The deputy governor, through his lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, while cross-examining Opuama who testified in his petition challenging Ewhrudjakpo’s victory in the election, had told the tribunal that there were inconsistencies in the first school leaving certificate as well as the certificate of the senior secondary certificate examination (SSCE) of the petitioner submitted to INEC.
Opuama, through his counsel, Pius Danba, had on Tuesday closed his case after calling three out of 30 witnesses to testify against the nomination of Ewhrudjakpo for the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, Opuama who served as third witness, was confronted with discrepancies in his own certificates by Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer.
The director-general of the DSS, one of the witnesses who testified on behalf of Opuama, had told the tribunal that NYSC actually effected the change of name on the exemption certificate issued to Ewhrudjakpo.